The ICC Cricket World Cup heads back to Lucknow for what is a key game in the competition on Friday as semi-final chasing Afghanistan take on a Netherlands side who have Champions Trophy qualification in their sights.
Afghanistan will move level on points with third placed Australia if they can win this game while the Netherlands, who currently occupy a qualifying spot for the Champions Trophy, will put distance between themselves and the other three teams who are chasing a spot if they win here.
Afghanistan made a bit of a slow start to their campaign with three defeats in their opening four matches but two classy run chases later and they find themselves with a 3-3 record from their six games and if they can put two wins onto that ledger they will be knocking on the door of a semi-final spot. It might be that because of their negative run rate they will need to win out from here on in but this represents a solid chance to pick up the first of those wins.
The longer this competition has gone on the better Afghanistan have looked. You would say that one reason for that would be the pitches tiring which seriously help their bowling attack, potentially their plethora of spinners. The other thing that has helped is their top order are in a nice groove. They are all scoring runs and looking confident and all of a sudden a team who have struggled to finish batting innings off are flying home.
The Netherlands have taken some heavy beatings in this tournament but they have also come away with a couple of victories to keep their morale high and one more win might just be enough to see them back in with the big boys at the Champions Trophy in 2025, which would represent a huge result for them and give them the ability to continue to progress heading towards a World Cup in 2027 which would be in conditions where they might be able to operate better than here.
The key for the Netherlands so far in the tournament has been their bowling. They have bowled with discipline and given everything they have got. Sometimes they have run into powerful batting on a good pitch and haven’t been able to do anything about that but when they have got into a batting order they have generally made it pay. Their own top order has struggled throughout the tournament and this might not be the wicket for tail end runs so that could need to change here.
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Afghanistan have no huge reason to make any changes after such a comfortable win over Sri Lanka but should the pitch be one for the spinners they have Noor Ahmad ready to come in. Naveel-ul-Haq would be most likely to make way.
The Netherlands have no need to make changes after their own emphatic victory against Bangladesh last time out but they left Roelof van der Merwe out of that match and if he is fit he could come back in here with conditions likely to suit.
I expect Afghanistan to get the job done here but one man who might offer up some resistance is the Netherlands captain Scott Edwards. He has played three ODI matches against Afghanistan in his career and he has scored 50 in each of them. They were last year against an attack which included both Mujeeb and Rashid Khan and he scored 68, 86 and 54 so I am very much interested in his runs line in this match, which depending on where you shop is as low as 20.5.
Edwards started this tournament slowly with a duck against Pakistan but since then he has scored 30, 78*, 16, 12* and 68 so he has covered this in three of his last five matches and was on course to do it in another before running out of partners and being stranded on 12. Edwards is an excellent player of spin which certainly helps and he is good at nudging the ball around and playing himself in before he expands his scoring shots. He can clearly handle this Afghanistan attack and I like the over on his runs line.
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